Fernando Ravsberg: "In Cuba There Are Good Journalists and Bad Press"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 13 July 2018 — Fernando Ravsberg, a Uruguayan journalist living in Cuba, has closed his blog Cartas desde Cuba (Letters from Cuba), after an intense campaign of harassment on the part of the most radical sectors of official journalism. Ravsberg published his last post on Thursday, explaining that he made the decision because the authorities refused to continue to accredit him as a journalist on the island.

“This is the last post from Cartas desde Cuba, I write it with sadness. After a decade in cyberspace reporting on the reality of Cubans, the blog must disappear, I have no possibilities to continue, the gate has been closed,” the journalist wrote.

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio, the former correspondent for the BBC and Público, said he had not wanted to specify in his last post whether he was leaving the country, however, sources close to the journalist told this newspaper that he will leave Cuba. Ravsberg is married to a Cuban so he could apply for permanent residency, but he can not work as a foreign correspondent.

Although the closure of Letters from Cuba is a victory for the most radical wing within official journalism, the communicator is optimistic about the future of the press on the Island.

“The number of readers we had and the debates that took place show that there is an interest in the nation for a different journalism to emerge,” he said by telephone from Havana.

Official journalists who now write in blogs what they are not allowed to write in the pages of the State media, as well as new magazines, pages and voices that relate a Cuba different from that in the media controlled by oficialdom, are examples of a new journalism that is opening a path, Ravsberg believes.

“There will always be forces that resist the new, the fact of economically drowning Letters from Cuba seeks to create a precedent, but I do not think they can stop all those who are doing different journalism at the moment,” he added.

In February of this year, Ravsberg launched a fundraising campaign to “save” Cartas desde Cuba. According to the journalist, he was able to collect just over 2,700 dollars, a small amount compared to the 30,000 dollars he has had to invest in the last five years to maintain the site.

“It’s not just maintaining Cartas desde Cuba, it’s a problem of maintaining me. I have a bad habit of having breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he jokes.

The grudge against Ravsberg has been steadily growing, according to the journalist’s own complaints. In January of last year the orthodox of officialdom accused the communicator of spreading false news about Cuba and even received threats of having “his teeth smashed in” because of the critical entries he posted on his blog.

At that time his accusers brought up a quote from Fidel Castro where he described Ravsberg as “the biggest liar” for daring to question one of his latest projects: the Energy Revolution that left the country in the dark.

Shortly before, the vice president of the Union of Journalists and Writers, Aixa Hevia, threw the first darts against the former correspondent for his defense of the ousted journalist José Ramírez Pantoja, of Radio Holguín. On that occasion he even let fall the idea of expelling Ravsberg from the country.

“I’m not complaining, we did good things, we called attention to the death of thirty patients of the psychiatric hospital, to the corruption in civil aviation during the time of General Acevedo and the strange negotiation that preceded the recent plane crash,” Ravsberg wrote in his last post.

He also highlights among his achievements what he calls “breaking ghettos,” making the different political tendencies of the country listen to “the arguments of the adversary.”

“In Cuba there is not bad press because there are bad journalists, the contradiction is that there are good journalists and bad press,” Ravsberg told 14ymedio.

Asked if these same forces that have driven the closure of Cartas desde Cuba can also drive the closure of the new information spaces that have emerged on the island, Ravsberg responds with a resounding no.

“There is an important difference between Cartas desde Cuba and the new spaces that are emerging, these new spaces are in the hands of Cubans, and of young Cubans. I am a foreigner, although the nation has welcomed me with open arms. I have to be silent because I am a foreigner, but that is not going to happen with the young people,” he adds.

The International Press Center did not renew Ravsberg’s credential, a measure denounced by the journalist a month ago. Apparently, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the publication in Cartas desde Cuba of a request for an independent investigation into the plane crash that killed 112 people in Havana.

The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa believes the assault on Ravsberg is proof that “the regime is afraid of the exercise of opinion, wherever it may come from, and that freedom of expression is incompatible with the system, regardless of the fact that the system is currently right in the middle of an apparent renovation. “

The dissident believes that the Ravsberg’s posts “have been criticized on both sides” of the different political positions, although he has always been linked to positions close to the Government.

Silvio Rodríguez, a singer-songwriter who for decades has sung praises to the government headed by the Castro brothers, came out in defense of Ravsberg on his blog Segunda Cita.

“It seems that at last the Cabrebrujas de Dores feel strong enough and unleashed, so much so that they seem capable of doing what Fidel and Raúl did not do … If this happens, if his press credential in Cuba is withdrawn and they push Ravsberg to emigrate with his Cuban family of 30 years, it can mean a parting of the waters in this Revolution that so many have loved, defended and built,” said the troubadour.

The worst fears of the author of El Necio (The Foolhave already been fulfilled: Ravsberg had his journalistic credential cancelled, he had to close lCartas desde Cuba and possibly board a plane in the coming weeks not to return, as thousands of Cubans have done in past decades. It remains to be seen on which side of the “parting of the waters” the troubadour will be located.


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